Race Report: Vettel beats Mercedes in Malaysia

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If you were looking for someone to take on Mercedes AMG Petronas in order to avoid making the 2015 season another exercise in utter domination, Ferrari have opened their bank account at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Sebastian Vettel has given the Scuderia their first win in nearly two years beating Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to the top step of the podium. The race was dry and hot and that is very likely the key to Ferrari’s victory.

There is no question that Ferrari’s pace has improved over the winter and we saw that in testing as well as the first grand prix in Australia but what seemed to make a big difference in Sunday’s race was the extreme heat and the ability of the Ferrari chassis to be gentle on its tires.

The win has many Formula 1 fans crunching numbers and attempting to discern the reasons but perhaps a simplification of the situation might be that while Mercedes has a clear engine advantage as well as a great chassis, Ferrari were able to tweak their chassis and use minimal tire degradation to overcome the said 50bhp advantage the German team has. Ferrari were simply much better on their option tires than Mercedes were.

The Sepang circuit, which has just renewed their contract with Formula 1 through 2018, is a purpose built circuit unlike the Albert Park track in Australia and it was in the crucible of heat and an actual race track layout that Ferrari were victorious. Not all races will be this hot or have this particular layout so like Red Bull’s occasional wins in 2014, we’ll have to see if Ferrari can keep this pace throughout the year.

Win

Win

Ferrari and Sebastian are a big win this weekend by making a two-stop strategy work and they seem to have created a chassis that is gentle on its tires in high heat situations. More so than their rivals but ultimately it may have simply been a case of the two-stopper and tire ease that saw their first win since Spain in 2013.

Making his long middle stint work and undercutting Rosberg to come out of the pits ahead of his fellow German driver was a key moment and the team called the strategy impeccably.

Another arguable win was the drive of Kimi Raikkonen who suffered a puncture on the first lap just after pit entry losing massive time on the field only to reverse course and drive to a solid fourth place finish albeit 53 seconds behind the top three.

A big win for Max Verstappen who is now the youngest driver to score points in F1 and his terrific pass on teammate Carlos Sainz but you cannot be too critical of the Spaniard as he started 17th and finished eighth just behind his Dutch teammate. Both Toro Rosso’s finishing ahead of the main team or Red Bull.

Win for Valtteri Bottas for nipping 5th away from his veteran teammate, Felipe Massa, on the final lap and giving both Williams a big points haul.

Fail

Fail

Ultimately you would have to suggest that this weekend, while a dual-podium finish, is a fail for Mercedes with the inability to make a three-stop strategy work for either car. Lewis was critical of his team on the radio for placing the hard or prime compound on his car for his final stint. Lewis congratulated Ferrari’s win and took the high road on the issue but clearly the team left a lot on the table with their strategy and perhaps their inability to make their tires work as well as Ferrari in the 140 degree track heat.

Sergio Perez garnered the attention of the race stewards when his Force India clouted the Lotus of Romain Grosjean as the Frenchman was making a move on the Mexican driver. A 10-second penalty was assessed for his role in the clash.

Manor’s Will Stevens failed to make the grid with a fuel system problem that could not be resolved prior to the start of the race. It’s a sour result for a sour beginning of the season for the team but they did manage to bring Roberto Merhi home in last place and three laps down on the leaders.

WTH

There is every chance that Red Bull Racing are asking themselves WTH? The team struggled with brake issues for most of the race and was beat by their junior team, Toro Rosso, as well as lapped by the leaders. The only interesting part of their story was that Daniel Ricciardo’s teammate, Daniil Kvyat, made life very difficult for the Australian and was all over him like a cheap suit for most of the race.

McLaren failed to get both cars home and the last time the team had a dual DNF was the US Grand Prix in 2006. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but the team know their challenge and the drivers do too. It will now take time (perhaps years) to get to the very top of the sport but they are not a team to be underestimated.

Malaysian Gran Prix Results:

PosDriverCarGap
1Sebastian VettelFerrari1h41m05.793s
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes8.569s
3Nico RosbergMercedes12.310s
4Kimi RaikkonenFerrari53.822s
5Valtteri BottasWilliams/Mercedes1m10.409s
6Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes1m13.586s
7Max VerstappenToro Rosso/Renault1m39.085s
8Carlos SainzToro Rosso/Renault1 Lap
9Daniil KvyatRed Bull/Renault1 Lap
10Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault1 Lap
11Romain GrosjeanLotus/Mercedes1 Lap
12Felipe NasrSauber/Ferrari1 Lap
13Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes1 Lap
14Nico HulkenbergForce India/Mercedes1 Lap
15Roberto MerhiMarussia/Ferrari3 Laps
Pastor MaldonadoLotus/MercedesRetirement
Jenson ButtonMcLaren/HondaRetirement
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/HondaRetirement
Marcus EricssonSauber/FerrariRetirement
Will StevensMarussia/FerrariWithdrawn

DRIVERS’ STANDINGS:

PosDriverPoints
1Lewis Hamilton43
2Sebastian Vettel40
3Nico Rosberg33
4Felipe Massa20
5Kimi Raikkonen12
6Felipe Nasr10
7Valtteri Bottas10
8Daniel Ricciardo9
9Nico Hulkenberg6
10Max Verstappen6
11Carlos Sainz6
12Marcus Ericsson4
13Daniil Kvyat2
14Sergio Perez1
15Romain Grosjean0
15Jenson Button0
17Roberto Merhi0

CONSTRUCTORS’ STANDINGS:

PosConstructorPoints
1Mercedes76
2Ferrari52
3Williams/Mercedes30
4Sauber/Ferrari14
5Toro Rosso/Renault12
6Red Bull/Renault11
7Force India/Mercedes7
8Lotus/Mercedes0
8McLaren/Honda0
10Marussia/Ferrari0
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32 Comments
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Tom Firth

Enjoyable race this morning, it was good to see F1 creating some positive headlines for itself, after everything over the past few months, brilliant drive for Vettel and really happy to see Ferrari back on top of the podium. Mercedes did make errors today, but Ferrari also had the pace, I think Mercedes will be abit concerned but not massively concerned by todays result, I do however think that Williams will be seriously concerned, Ferrari certainly has the upper hand on them now. Great result for both Verstappen and Sainz, very impressed by both rookies, nothing personal with Sainz, but… Read more »

Andy Schenectady

Ferrari is easy on the tires like Lotus was back when they had James Allison. Good to see Mercedes sweat. Amusing to watch Red Bull now complaining about their brake disc supplier–it’s always someone. Will Pastor ever have more championship points than superlicense penalty points?

John Matalevich

I loved it not only as a Seb fan but I think it’s good for the sport. It would be nice to see atleast two teams going at it on race day. Hopefully a Williams or a Red Bull can step their game up now and we can have a really fun season.

Junipero Mariano

I wonder if Vettel doubters will say he didn’t pass enough drivers.
Hopefully Red Bull will find the grit that Ferrari has.
Did you know that Max Verstappen was 17?!!! I certainly know now.

Paul R Jaworski

There’s more to this than Ferrari being able to do a 2 stopper and being easy on the tires. Look at the 1st 4 laps. Lewis was not pulling away from Seb.

Negative Camber

Well, you know my bias so I hope you’re right but I suspect China will be the other side of the story. Even James Allison said he thinks they are still far off from Merc.

莫龍山

brilliant race-all weekend long I thought merc was just waiting or the race to turn up the wick. how wrong I was. first season of newey’s pull back, and it looks like toro rosso has the superior chassis when compared with RB. still all four drivers (RB&TR) showed exceptional skill today. how long until we see kimi eating ice cream? a maxipad’s clearly not enough for nico in Malaysia. someone get the man some Depends-do they not wear undies under those suits? checo, checo, checo … driving like it’s his birthday and Grosjean’s a French piñata. congrats to Ferrari. arrivabene… Read more »

Scott Crawford

As a Lewis fan I’m surprised how refreshng and uplifting I found it to see some reward for Ferrari after all their troubles and hard work. Genuine relief, joy and gratitude from new and old faces at the team. The demeanour of Vetter, Allison and Arrivabene and the rest is so calm and positive. It looks like they finally have the right people in place. I see now why it was impossible for Mattiacchi to stay in position after all the hack and slash he had to do. Arrivabene could slip right in as the nice guy. Despite never being… Read more »

Boyd McCollum

The downside to Vettel’s win? He can’t retire his helmet :) Amazing race. Love Vettel’s comment in the post-race presser – “(I) shouldn’t say it but I don’t know, I was shitting myself the last couple of laps because here and there the thought was coming to my head, I was looking at the top of the chassis and thinking “this is a red, you’re about to win” and then I thought, “OK, stop thinking that, otherwise you’ll miss the next apex or something”. LOL. I think the excitement of the race, even though it was clear he’d win, was… Read more »

bclautz

Great race. awards for the race pass Bottas on Verstappen. great overtake Donkey Red Bull for awful race. brake issues Drive Vettel great drive and great strategy call by ferrari.

Profpalm

I loved it. As a Merc/Lewis fan, I am excited beyond belief that Ferrari have challenged them (at lest on this track) and it through the complete Merc strategy camp into disarray. People upset, fingers on buttons, chatter and confusion, it looked like a episode rerun of F-Troop within the Merc fort. Maybe Vettel actually did show up with Nico’s offer with Merc garage-pass in hand, or Seb has switched to Monster energy drinks now, but no matter, I love the fact that we have challengers at the top.

jiji the cat

not taking anything away from Seb or the Ferrari team, but i think the real winner is James Allison. Didn’t he make tyre friendly chasis for Lotus?
I dare say we will see long runs at quite few races during the course of the season.

yoshif8tures

I noticed that you have three stars to the Melborne and four to this one, so I’m thinking that you were overly generous for the Melbourne race? I Mean this race was just so much better than one more star..

Scottynz

So do yah think this Vettel chap has future in F1?

jiji the cat

Vettel who?

Scottynz

Seriously though I do think that this drive should really put the doubters to bed…. This guy is talented (and you really need talent to win four in a row even if you have the better car). While Vettel won’t win the next race we will see him win again before the end of the year. The guy can drive and he is good… Just had an off year last year as everyone could (the exception maybe Senna). Lets see how Mr coke and ice-cream responds (positively I hope)

Scott Crawford

Fashion Award:

Nico Rosberg’s cooling vest during the national anthem line up.

Dapper

runnah

Amazing that a Manor finished the race and both Mclarens did not.

Jeff

Phew, that Mclaren… Okay, they’ve babysitting the power unit through teething troubles, and as such need to suffer a power deficit as they slowly let it loose. But observationally, that chassis looks under-baked. Whenever Alonso turned in aggressively the car wanted to swap ends. There seemed initial understeer, then snap oversteer in both cars, transitioning again from the nose washing wide and another backend wiggle as they reapplied power. Part of that’s undoubtedly lumpy power delivery, but it’s also assuredly grip imbalances. Mclaren keeps saying it’s the best chassis they’ve ever produced, and Scarbs reported to his eyes the aero… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Since the Manor car is close to being a 2014 Marussia, with its reliable 2014 Ferrari power unit, and the 2014 Marussia’s finished every race, isn’t it more amazing that Manor can’t get both cars running at the same time?

Sorry if that was a bit snarky, I’m hurting because I expected McLaren Honda would be competitive (and reliable) once the GP’s started – come on Honda, get it sorted!

runnah

The point being is that Mclaren and Honda are automotive Giants who should bring doing better than a back from the dead team funded by pity and shadowy organizations.

jakobusvdl

Are you still talking about Manor, or are we on to Ferrari now?

228929292AABBB

To see Hamilton and Vettel sitting on the podium grinning like 12 year old boys at summer camp made me so happy. What a wonderful experience life is when a sport so complex and technical can be rejuvenated by two bratty kids who decided to grow up and stand on their own, and brought two entire teams back to glory with their spirit. Yesterday I believed there is still a great human element to Formula One. But I can’t imagine why Hulkenburg was penalized except to say all Red Bull’s whining about quitting must have earned them a couple get… Read more »

Samouri

Well Said!

228929292AABBB

Who was more reflective do you think, Alonso for leaving the Ferrari for McLaren (which finished one fewer car than Manor) or Red Bull, who saw their castoff driver eliminate the possibility of their coveted ‘equalization’ by proving Mercedes are beatable?

Sod' Law

I’m not a Ferrari fan, nor am I a Mercedes fan, but it is nice to see some competition for a change. Too many years of one team dominance, regardless of which team, is debasing the sport.

jakobusvdl

Listening to the race review podcast, an important question came to my mind. What do they call Red Bull in Italy, and does that get confusing when there is another team called Toro Rosso?

Nasar7

Rred Bool.

jakobusvdl

Must be great to be multilingual……..

Oliver

I really enjoyed the race!
Vettel was great despite everything!
http://www.motornirvana.com/vettel-and-the-ferrari-phoenix/

thomin

Come on, we all know that Vettel only wins because of the car. The kid is a mediocre driver at best. If it wasn’t for Adrian Newey designing the car, he’d be battling for midfield positions…oh wait, Newey didn’t design Vettel’s car, did he? Which car did he design again? But in all seriousness, even as a dyed in the wool Mercedes fan, I’m glad that there’s now a team that can beat them on merit, even if the circumstances played an important role there as well and I’m doubly glad that it’s Ferrari, because even though I really don’t… Read more »

AlanMiller

I still think that Mercedes is gonna run away with it this year, but I think Ferrari is going to have some moments to rain on the parade. Especially on tracks that are notorious for high degradation. I’m a Vettel fan so I’m a bit biased, but I must admit, it felt a little weird cheering for the red team.